Troubleshooter: Contractor problem

November 16, 2009 9:00:00 PM PST
Mike Luchansky's been running since I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson confronted him in May 2007."Can we talk to you about your business?" she asked back then.

"In reference to what?" he responded.

"You're acting as a licensed contractor and you're not licensed," Wilson told him.

"I'm not acting as a licensed contractor," he responded.

But that that's not what he told our undercover producer earlier when we invited him to a decoy house set up with hidden cameras.

"I'm licensed up to 30 thousand dollars," he said.

But Wilson checked with the contractor's board and there was no license.

"$30,000 and under is what I'm licensed for," Luchansky told Wilson.

"Okay, look here. You've done work for Carrie Lee. You signed a contract with her for $38,500. That's more than 30 thousand dollars, and you're not licensed to do that kind of work. You just said you're only licensed to do up to 30 thousand dollars worth of work. Here's a contract for $38,000 worth of it," Wilson responded.

"Okay, thank you ma'am," Luchansky replied.

"So you have nothing to say how you're ripping people off?" Wilson asked. "You have more than 30 thousand dollars of Carrie Lee's money."

"I'm not ripping anyone off, Luchansky said.

"You signed this contract in May of 2006, have you finished it?" Wilson asked.

"She's gotten well more than she's paid," said Luchansky.

"Have you finished it?" Wilson asked.

"It's in process, right now," he said.

Luchansky never finished Lee's home or several others who complained to us - even though he took thousands of dollars from them.

Fast forward two years to Cary homeowner Bally Sohi who says he knows what it's like to be a victim of Mike Luchansky.

"He never answers the phone and his voicemail's always full," Sohi explained.

And he says he got a bad vibe from Luchansky's own helpers

"I really realized something was wrong when some of the subcontractors were saying that they've never worked with him in the past - it was the first time working with this guy and they were a bit skeptical of dealing with him as well," said Sohi.

Sohi says he paid Luchansky about $16,000 but Luchansky never paid the subcontractors.

"He kept promising us a check. When he wouldn't show for an arranged meeting to pay us he would call and say 'I'm so sorry. Next time we meet I'm gonna give you an extra fifty dollars for your trouble,'" said painting subcontractor Robin Smith.

Smith says Luchansky called her needing help on a job right away.

"So he said I would really be saving his life if I could get some people over there that day, get the work done. I'd get paid immediately," she recalled.

Smith sent a team of painters to Sohi's house and they spent a full day painting - $1,200 worth.

"And it became a series of phone calls that he would call and say 'I promise to have it on this day if you would just meet me at this place I'll pay you,'" Smith said.

So Wilson went to work trying to track down Luchansky a second time. We tried two addresses on file for him. At the first - an apartment with his name on the key pad - when we ring it was disconnected.

At a Cary home, a woman inside refused to open the door.

It appears that Luchansky is on the run - leaving subcontractors unpaid and Sohi with unfinished work.

"The bathroom wasn't finished. The plumbing wasn't done, so we still have some left in here," said Sohi.

Sohi has had to hire new contractors to come in and finish what Luchansky didn't. And there's even more bad news. He's now being sued by some of the sub-contractors Luchansky didn't pay.

The North Carolina Licensing Board investigated Luchansky, and now there's that warrant for his arrest since he failed to show up in court for allegedly practicing as a general contractor and taking on jobs over 30 thousand dollars.

Sohi's job was under 30 thousand, so it wasn't illegal. But he didn't finish it, or pay at least some of his sub-contractors. And he's still out there somewhere, operating under the name Triangle Remodeling.

Experts say the best advice is check out anyone you're going to hire to do work on your home. Ask for references and even do an internet search. In Sohi's case, he didn't find Wilson's previous story until after he was out more than $16,000.

And how can you find out if your contractor's licensed? Get their general contractor's license number and check it out on-line. Click here for the link to the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractor's.

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